After meeting in Goa, whilst on “walk about” Bill and Aileen married and begin a whole new adventure when they built and opened their brewery in 2019. Adventure was in the genes as Aileen’s grandfather Tom Crean was the renowned Antarctic explorer whom the brewery is named after, Tom Crean Brewery
At Blas the awards are based on blind tasting, our judges review solely on the food or drinks they are tasting, they don’t know who has made it or where it is coming from. This blind element is a key part of our judging to allow a level playing field for all. However, once the judging is done we love nothing more than learning all about the producers just like Aileen & Bill from the Tom Crean Brewery.
When & why did you start your business?
We built the brewery in 2019 and opened it in November 2019. We started the business to honour my grandfather, Tom Crean. During our brewery tours we share family stories and the history of Tom’s expeditions to keep his story alive, with a level of authenticity, for future generations. When he retired from the Royal Navy after his 3 Expeditions to Antarctica, he opened a pub in Annascaul, the village from which he came. He called it the South Pole Inn, the only public acknowledgement of his expeditions.
Who is your food inspiration?
Our inspiration for our beer comes from our environment, sense of place and imagination. We brew a beer called Kerry Surf & Turf to honour the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean surrounding us. We dig turf, boil it up and add it to the mash, we forage seaweed down the bay and used this also in the brew. Druid’s Smoked Wheat Beer is inspired by our proximity to Bonane and its rich ancient history. Corner Boys, a watermelon pale ale so named as it was a tradition in Ireland that some men would gossip on the corner of a street. This exotic fruit used in South Kerry beer would have given them something to talk about!
What do you love about your day
Working with my husband; and the freedom, at the end of a delivery day to swim in the warm, balmy waters of the Atlantic.
What is your typical day?
Like the job, the day varies, depending on what’s in the schedule. If it’s a double brew day, start at 7am and it’s a 12-hour day. The next day, 8am start to clean down. Delivery day, 8am. Brewery tours can be booked online, 3pm on Saturdays, group and private tours booked in advance can be arranged for other times and days, depending on our schedule. The “Tap Room” is open from 5 to 7pm. This is when the public can relax and chat with us in the brewery and sample our beers on draught. We have amazing photographs or our 2016 South Georgia Family Centenary Expedition on a TV loop. Lots of photographs of Tom Crean and information on brewing adorn the walls.
What was your best day since you started your business?
The day we were awarded Gold by Blas na hÉireann for our 6 Magpies Stout and Bronze for our St. Brigid’s lager. To think that this small little brewery, only opened 3 years, in difficult economic climate received these awards, tangible confirmation that the beers we produced as sustainably as possible did not detract from the quality of our beers.
Where do your ingredients come from?
Our beers are all natural, vegan and with zero additives of any description. Beer has four ingredients grain from Co. Antrim, yeast from Co. Wicklow, Water from Kenmare and hops from around the world. We also forage locally when needed for specialist beers.
Tell us about the people you work with?
Up until 2022, Bill worked in the brewery on his own. I leased out my restaurant and accommodation and moved to the brewery to help in the business as it grew. September 2023, a special employment scheme enabled us to employ a local man. This has proved very successful, for him and us.
What 3 words would you use to describe yourself/your business?
Sustainable, Passionate and Determined.
What do you think is the key to success?
Hard work, passion, dedication, adaptability, and a sense of humour.
Has there been one single moment which has changed how you look at your business?
Yes, when we received the Blas na hÉireann awards. These awards gave us the confidence to expand commercially and drive on our sustainability agenda.